The primary objective was to compare the grammatical output of children with language disorders on different tasks. Sixty-five children with language disorders, aged six to eleven, completed the syntactic formulation (elicitation) and narrative subtests from the Assessment of Comprehension and Expression 6-11 (Adams et al. 2001). Grammatical variables were computed for the narrative data and their relationship with the syntactic formulation subtest score examined. The use of ten specific constructions was compared in the two contexts. The syntactic formulation score correlated highly with narrative grammatical variables. However, for seven of the ten constructions, the elicitation task was more likely than the narrative to yield specific target structures. Structured elicitation is an efficient normative measure of grammatical production capacity. For specific structures, elicitation and narrative may give a different picture of output. Elicitation is more facilitative and may more closely reflect grammatical knowledge. Target structures were less likely to be used in the narrative, which reflects grammatical performance in a cognitively and linguistically demanding task. © 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd.